Alright team! We get this question a bunch in the group and via our DM's so here is our answer!
How many different outdoor locations do you offer? Do you have any tips for finding epic spots?
I don't really have a set number of 'locations' as such but I do have a guide and I do have some favourites.
How I do it? Well I have an identifying question. "What kind of vibe would you like? Forest, Beach, Cliffs, Garden or at home?" The question changes based on what I might already know about the client but this is the base.
Any version of this kind of question will let you know if your client has an idea of where they might like to have their photoshoot. This answer can open up a discussion and give you a starting point.
Some clients are going to already have an idea in mind. This is perfect, I'll let them know what time of day would best suit the location and then we will plan their outfit to suit that type of location & light.
Some are going to have no idea. Having the guide gives me something I can send to my clients to show them some visual options without overloading them with TOO many options. Too many choices to make can be overwhelming for a client and become an obstacle for booking anything in. Having the guide or even a recommendation can position us as being a professional, a guide. Which will help create trust that we know what we are doing and will look after them!
Once I've found out what suit of look they like, I can recommend a few locations that meet that vibe close to them. Again making sure I don't overload them. In my guide, I show my favourite spots, the places I love to shoot at because 1. They look great and 2. Because I know the light.
If you don't have a guide yet or don't have time to make one, you can always use your gallery of images on your website.
My guide has all my what to wear information as well, which helps with location picking.
NOW FOR THE TIPS
Go exploring. Take your family, take your friend, take your dog. Find places that are nearby you, find places that are nearby where your clients are located.
The DOC website for New Zealanders, or equivalent hiking trail app/website for your country or region is a great information source that you can utilise to find natural locations like bush walks, forests, waterfalls or beaches.
Find locations that fit the main vibes you want to shoot. So that you have a quick ready location list for those most commonly requested spots.
It's great to take your camera and take a photo so you can show the reference image to the client. Even if it's just of your dog in the middle of a beautiful forest. As you shoot in these spots you can then add them to your guide. You COULD even do a styled shoot/model call shoot or grab a friend so that you have some examples in spots you want to promote.
If you want amazing cliff top elopement style locations you need to hike to, start following some epic travel landscape photographers from your region on Instagram. You'll find great locations to go check out for yourself this way!
Don't forget to consider where the sunsets. You can use a mobile app called PhotoPills to find out where the sun will be at any time, on any date. This can help you with choosing what time of day you'd recommend to your clients that you shoot at. Don't forget though, in Winter the sunsets at a different point on the horizon to Summer and this will change whether you love or hate a location as well!
People will tend to feel more comfortable if there are less people around, so when choosing locations keep your clients pain points in mind. Would you like people to see you almost nude while you have your maternity portraits taken? Maybe not.
Another key thing would be if there is access to a bathroom. As epic as a location might be, if your client has small children, they may not want to go somewhere there is no bathroom after a long drive. OR at least let them know that there is no facilities there and where the nearest one is.
Consider if there is a safe place to park. Again, children and open 100km speed limit areas are not a good idea - no matter how beautiful the spot it. Make sure you keep those kind of locations for the clients that it is appropriate for.
There is a balance between epic locations and all the other needs we have to meet for our clients too so don't forget to take those into consideration when choosing your spots. Even if it's just to list the amenities available nearby or the average drive time to the spot so your clients aren't surprised!
ASK YOUR COLLEAGUES
Sometimes we are shooting somewhere outside of our normal spots and we might not have time to do a whole heap of scouting. An option is to ask other photographers. I don't mean always relying on others for cool spots to shoot but remember that you are part of a big community of photographers and they might actually be happy to share a spot or two with you, as long as in the future you are willing to do the same back.
Sometimes people might not be willing to share a location and that is totally ok. If they've spent weeks sucking up to their neighbour in order to use their epic family farm they probably won't want to hand that over to you as well but public places are public places. Just don't ask if you aren't willing to also share, because no body likes a taker.